What were we thinking?
For 25 years, we had lived in the same house in Oceanside New York, travelled to and from our jobs, raised our son Jesse, sent him to the local schools, then off to college in upstate New York, and took family camping vacations up and down the east coast every summer. Nothing out of the ordinary for a suburban New York family.
Then, in the summer of 2008, something strange appeared in front of our house. Our pop-up camping trailer disappeared from the driveway, as did our Dodge Caravan, replaced by a 30-foot long, 11 foot high “fifth-wheel” trailer, and a 21-foot long fire-engine-red diesel Ford F-250 pick-up truck.
We had put our house on the market, we were holding “garage sales,” selling, giving away, and finally throwing out practically everything we had accumulated over the course of 25 year! It was the ultimate “down-sizing” – moving from a two-story, five bedroom, three bath home with a finished basement into a 30 foot trailer, storing only our (rather large) record collection, our photos, and our favorite books, in a five-by-five storage unit in nearby Rockville Centre.
Anything else we wanted to keep had to fit in the trailer with us and our dog Muttley. Many of our friends and neighbors had to wonder – what possessed us to do this? As everything we ever owned disappeared from our house, we even began to wonder ourselves why we were doing this!
A Dream Can Become Reality
The answer was simple… ever since we met 34 years ago, we had dreamt about making a cross-country camping trip, taking our time to discover the spectacular places we had only read about. To be fair, Chelle had already made such a trip in the mid-1970s, camping in a tent for six weeks, visiting a few National Parks, and making it to the west coast. Despite having more time to travel than most people do, she remembered the trip as somewhat rushed, so we knew we would need to plan our trip for a time when we would no longer have the deadlines and commitments that consumed so much of our work lives. At the same time, it was difficult to imagine how or when we would ever get to that point.
Then in July 2006, the first shoe dropped… after more than 35 years as a New York City middle school teacher, Chelle retired! However, I wasn’t ready to follow suit at that point, having started a job only a few months earlier as an IT director at the New York City Health Department. We also didn’t really have a concrete plan, only that vague dream of travelling across the country someday. Nevertheless, the clock had started ticking, and we set about making that dream a reality.
We began to look into what it would take to travel indefinitely… how to live full-time in an RV, how much it would cost, both in terms of equipment and living expenses, and we started saving up to buy what we needed. Chelle returned to her old school part-time while I continued to work for two more years. Meanwhile, we discovered that there was a lot more to consider than we first realized.
Living Full-Time in an RV
When you live and travel full-time in an RV, where do you get your mail? How do you pay your bills? How do you maintain a driver’s license when you don’t have an address, or even a state where you live? Where do you live in the winter when campgrounds typically close between October and April, and your camper is not winterized?
How do you stay connected to family and friends? How can you keep costs down when diesel is over five dollars a gallon – remember, we were planning to start travelling in 2008, when fuel prices hit an all-time high, and campgrounds cost anywhere from $30 to $60 or more per night? How far in advance do you need to plan when you want to stay in a popular location like a National Park? What do you do if you find out it all costs more than you thought it would, and you’ve already sold (or in our case, rented out) your house so you can’t go back?
We will be answering those questions, and many more, about what we learned and how we became full-time RVers for three years, and now travel and volunteer around the country for eight months while spending the winter where there is no winter! We will also recount our experiences and share our photos and observations from travelling around the country over the last seven years, visiting more than 50 national parks and monuments, as well as scores of historic and beautiful places we’ve seen and adventures we’ve had – and that you too can have, if you’re so inclined – since we set out.
Our Latest Cross-Country Trip
Meanwhile, we’ll begin posting our latest coast-to-coast adventure – our 14th trip across the country in the last seven years!
We’ll be travelling from Southern California to the banks of the Hudson River in New York, stopping along the way to see enormous prehistoric rock art figures in the desert, the ruins of ancient multi-story dwellings, an ancient pueblo still inhabited after more than a thousand years, hiking around the rim and down into the crater of a volcano, “threading the needle” across Tornado Alley a day behind lines of tornadoes and in front of a blizzard, visiting the site where Lewis and Clark began their own cross-country adventure over 200 years ago, touring the homes of both Abraham Lincoln and his Secretary of State William Seward, and stopping to visit friends in both New Mexico and upstate New York.
Join the Adventure!
You can follow our adventures by checking back on this website from time to time, or you can sign up to receive an email message to let you know when there’s a new post for you to read. You can also let us know what you think, or ask a question by posting a comment below. We won’t share or sell your email address, so feel free to join us on our journey.
Andy, Chelle and Cookie